So – we finally have the Church of England’s Living In Love And Faith report/book/resources available to us. Does any of this help us to see a clear way forward? Or does it simply muddy the waters further, while advertising itself as a remedy for confusion? Or is it in fact the beginning of the end?
The following comments are made about the way in which the Church is using the Living In Love And Faith project as a means to change its beliefs and practices to accommodate current cultural upheavals. My criticisms are of the LLF materials and the way they are being used by the Church hierarchy, not a criticism of the place of LGBT+ Christians in the Church. LGBT+ Christians are part of the Church. The question before us is whether or not all other Christians must agree that the LGBT+ lifestyle itself is in line with the Bible.
The over-arching problem with these ‘resources’ and the Living In Love And Faith book itself is that the authors – backed up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York – clearly equate the Bible with a range of other concepts as if they are of equivalent value. These other things include ‘queer hermeneutics’, ‘science’ (as if it is a settled argument), ‘cultural contexts’, ‘issues of interpretation’, ‘debates’ about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage – and my personal favourite, ‘lived experiences’. And while there are regular comments about the generality of the focus on all areas of sex and marriage in society, it is absolutely clear throughout where the principal emphasis lies: a pacifying response to LGBT+ activism.
If anyone should be left in any doubt, this publication surely heralds the death-throes of the Church of England as we know it – or at least, as it used to be. Despite their efforts to bamboozle readers with attempts to project an impartial stance, the authors’ barefaced cheek and fudging is clear. There is much talk about ‘learning’ and ‘listening’, but I suspect most traditionalists know in what direction any learning and listening is leaning. And it is not towards us.
The Bishop of Coventry, commenting on the Living In Love And Faith resources stated that “the doctrine of marriage is ripe for development”. His colleague the Bishop of London said that based on the consideration of the Living In Love And Faith materials, bishops will “draw up scenarios for different outcomes” to be put to General Synod by 2022, but that she did not know what “the outcome of this process is going to be”.
Oh, that’s strange, Bishop. I think most of the rest of us know what the outcome of the process will be.
It is obvious from the Living In Love And Faith book that the authors started their work from the position that it is only those poor clods, the average man and woman in the pew, who need ‘to learn’ about ‘identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage’. This is despite the fact that the majority of Anglicans have, amazingly, managed to live their lives to date with a perfectly good understanding of these ‘issues’.
Notwithstanding a scattering of sweeteners sprinkled over the Living In Love And Faith book, such as this:
“….we also need to be good observers of the world in which God has placed us, and of the lived experiences which call us to understand God’s presence in human experience.” (Page 10, Living In Love and Faith)
….it’s clear that for all the talk of ‘all of us’ as we ‘learn together’, it is only those deluded, traditionally-minded parishioners who must do the observing and understanding of the ‘lived experiences’ of others. The Enlightened Ones of the LGBT+ community and their ‘allies’ are not required to do any changing – it’s just the poor plebs who have been the backbone of the Church for decades who need to ‘learn and understand’. So all the necessary changing is going in one direction only – a mind-renewal exercise on a par with the Orwell’s totalitarian state Doublethink.
There are various attempts in the book to confuse issues that don’t need to be confused. These are, to my mind, disingenuous efforts to look open-minded while actually sowing the seeds of future change, dressed up as ‘inclusivity’. For example, there is mention of the changing nature of marriage in the past and even in the Bible. The marriages of Ruth and Boaz and of Jacob, Leah and Rachel are cited. This is, no doubt, an attempt to persuade us that changes need to be made in our own understanding of marriage. Indeed, it is stated in the book that:
“ …this [traditional] understanding of marriage is ripe for developments that allow people of the same sex also to receive its blessings and disciplines; and we recognize that in some churches developments in doctrine and practice are taking place.” (Page 24, Living In Love and Faith)
So apparently, the ‘one man, one woman’ ideal stated by God to Adam is now in need of ‘development’.
This is confusion-sowing of the highest order. Anthropologically, there has been – and still is – a wide range of marriage practices around the world. But we are talking here of Biblical marriage. The fact that the Jewish people copied the practices of other cultures who lived around them in Old Testament times does not negate God’s initial model of life partnership as stated in Genesis 2. Jesus himself confirmed this original pattern in Mark 10:6-8:
“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh”.
But hey-ho, perhaps Jesus’ words are now ‘ripe for development’?
In support of such ripe development, the authors go on to state:
“Secure in its roots [oh, the irony!], the Christian understanding of marriage has been sufficiently supple to respond to changing cultures, and suitably rich in meaning to allow God’s gift to be received in different ages, even if its purposes have been lived out with greater clarity at some times more than others. Like every form of life, it needs always to be shaped more deeply by the liberating gift of God’s love that brings us into fulness of life.”
As a former academic, I am well used to reading gobbeldy-gook dressed up as wisdom, yet this paragraph is right up there with the best. Besides, I’d love to know where Christian marriage has been practised as anything other than, er, Christian marriage in the past? If anyone can paraphrase the above guff into plain English, please go ahead. Personally, I suspect it is meant to mean something like this:
‘Christian marriage has always been changing; it has meant different things in different times and to different people; it now needs to be revised so as to accommodate those who don’t like its traditional format.’
This is only one of many classic examples of Doublethink in the book. The authors are saying, in effect:
‘We look as if we are saying one thing, but we are actually saying another thing; this is because we need to equate two opposing views that cannot be reconciled; plus, we are too gutless to do anything but look as if we are sitting on the fence – even though we have in fact pitched our tent on the progressive side already.’
Illustrating their own indoctrination into Doublethink, they then go on to say:
“So it is to the Bible that we turn to find what Christians agree is a uniquely authoritative account of who Jesus is, how he lived and what he taught. ……The Bible is central to the life of the whole church community and to the lives of individual Christian disciples.” (Page 39, Living In Love and Faith).
Then, of course, in true Doublethink mode, they provide a word-salad recipe showing how to get out of actually believing that last statement:
“As we do so we will discover that making connections between what we read in the Bible and the questions we bring to it about identity, sexuality, marriage and relationships is not a simple matter. We will need to explore how the identities and contexts of the Bible’s many human authors shape the texts we read and how our own contexts and the questions we put to the Bible affect our interpretation of it.” (Page 40, Living In Love and Faith).
See what they did there? We can’t just read the Bible and accept it – we have to read it in the light of ‘identities and contexts’! Wow! So we can change the meaning of it depending on what identity and context we happen to be promoting at any given time! Who knew?!
“As with all human understanding, our knowledge of the Bible is provisional and our understanding partial. We need to read it responsibly, paying attention to the voices of reason and mercy.” (Page 40, Living In Love and Faith).
Ah yes, ‘reason and mercy’. For which read, ignore the bits the activists don’t like.
“We need to read it together as the people of God, listening to the wisdom and perspectives of others, including those who have spent their lives studying the Bible.” (Page 40, Living In Love and Faith).
And there we have it. The ‘wisdom and perspectives’ of ‘others’ are now granted equal weight and value with the wisdom and perspectives of God.
Apart from the obvious departure from the Bible, the big problem here is that the wisdom, perspectives and ‘lived experiences’ of progressives mean that reason and faith are thrown out of the window. Apparently ‘lived experience’ trumps all else. There is no room for the views or beliefs of others because they have not ‘lived it’. Only those who have lived an experience are allowed to have a valid view on it – unless, of course, their views are also being supported by ‘allies’.
What these dimwits fail to see is that the end result of their argument is the wholesale failure to credit reason and faith with any value. If this view were to be applied to society in general, we would have chaos and most formal education would cease. It is by intellectual reasoning that we can discuss and debate issues about which we have little or no personal experience. It is by faith that we accept the Word of God in the Bible (or not). But according to the progressives, reason and faith must give way to the expression of the ‘lived experience’ of the permanently aggrieved. This is nothing less than the negation of the Enlightenment and the denial of the validity of the faith of millions of Christians.
Based on this shaky foundation, we would also have to accept that it would be impossible to debate or condemn the views of terrorists because we have not ‘lived their experiences’. And before anyone starts on me about that example, I’m not equating progressives in the Church with terrorists, but the argument stands all the same. This is simply one example of the logical outcome of the views proposed in the Living In Love And Faith materials. I use this example as a means to illustrate the mind-numbing stupidity of the ‘lived experience’ argument being prioritised over reason and debate.
There is, of course, all the usual guilt-tripping about ‘privilege’:
“There are ways of reading the Bible and thinking theologically that seem normal or obvious in the Church. They are often shaped, in ways that might not be visible, by the experience of the privileged groups that do most to produce them. So what we take to be just ‘sound interpretation’ or just ‘good theology’ may in fact be white, male, middle-class, affluent, and Western interpretation and theology. The reading and thinking of marginalized groups can often see things in the Bible and the tradition that privileged readers miss.” (Page 328, Living In Love And Faith).
Racism, anyone? Not to mention sexism and anti-Westernism? Plus the wholesale abandonment of two millenia of Judeo-Christian values?
So there we are. By 2022, if not before, General Synod is to be presented with the ‘learning’ and ‘understanding’ acquired by the various dioceses as they now follow their instructions to plough through the various resources supplied alongside this sacrilege in order to be re-programmed.
So as to accommodate a tiny but loud number of activists, the leadership of the Mother Church, the Church of England, has set out a roadmap to change 2000 years-worth of doctrine based on the Bible. It is doing this by devious methods of linguistic sleight of hand, questionable semantics and sheer hypocrisy. All characteristics of Doublethink:
“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, …….to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink”. (George Orwell (1949) Nineteen Eighty-Four; Chapter 3).
Be on notice, fellow-Anglicans: the end is nigh. If you cannot agree to undergo the ‘renewing of your mind’ according to the principles laid out among and between the lines of Living in Love and Faith, then you are going to be faced with a big decision at some point in 2022. To take the door marked ‘Exit’ or to persuade yourself that you can live in a Church that has sworn its allegiance to the cultural values of the day over the stated Word of God.